EMVCo Proposes New Contactless Payment Specifications

May 12, 2022
The global technical body owned by the major international card networks is proposing new specifications to streamline global contactless payment acceptance.

The global technical body owned by the major international card networks is proposing new specifications to streamline global contactless payment acceptance.

EMVCo, controlled by card giants Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, JCB and UnionPay, is a global technical body that manages and evolves specifications to facilitate interoperability and acceptance of secure card-based payment products around the world.

Earlier this week (May 9), the body proposed a draft contactless kernel specification to simplify and advance global contactless acceptance.

The so-called kernel specification provides a set of functions for payment acceptance devices, such as point-of-sale terminals and ATMs, to process contactless transactions.

At present, there are more than 20 different payment system contactless kernels in use around the world, which technology vendors use to provide products that enable merchants to accept contactless payments, according to EMVCo.

“The complexity and cost of maintaining this multi-kernel environment is a growing challenge for the payments community,” the body said.

The new kernel specification is intended to provide stakeholders with a single set of functions that over time can enable global contactless payment acceptance.

“EMVCo is developing the EMV Contactless Kernel Specification to address industry demand for an EMV contactless kernel that is made available in the same way as EMV Contact Chip to streamline global payment acceptance,” said Robin Trickel, EMVCo executive committee chair.

“Ultimately, this can over time help reduce the number of contactless kernels that stakeholders need to support and maintain, creating opportunities for merchants, hardware providers and payment systems to reduce costs, and improve roll-out speed and time to market,” she added.

Once final, the specification will be available for technology providers to implement. It will be owned, managed and licensed by EMVCo royalty-free.

The kernel is designed to sit alongside existing payment system kernels, Simon Kleine, director of communications at EMVCo, told VIXIO. EMVCo will not mandate the use of the specification and it will be up to each respective payment system to determine whether they continue using their own kernel specification or over time replace it with the EMV one.

It is based on existing contactless architecture and does not force reissuance of cards, nor require new hardware, Kleine explained.

It lays down requirements and features designed to support the evolution of contactless and mobile payments, including advanced security technologies to protect against future threats.

Key features include Secure Channel for privacy protection of sensitive data, Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) for card authentication, biometric and mobile card verification methods, an architecture that supports physical or cloud implementations, and on-card data storage.

The draft specifications build on its extensive industry-wide engagement with stakeholders on the topic, as well as on a feasibility study, conducted by two independent consulting research firms, the body said in the release.

The publication of the draft specification follows a detailed review in February and March by EMVCo associates, which include large market players such as Ant Group, Checkout.com, eftpos, the European Payments Council, FIS, Google, National Payments Corporation of India, Nets, Square, Stripe and The Clearing House.

EMVCo is now seeking input from stakeholders, particularly from manufacturers of contactless readers, terminals and cards, and financial institution staff responsible for implementing financial applications in contactless cards.

Interested parties can provide feedback until June 20, with the final specification expected to be released later this year after its publication is approved by the EMVCo board of advisors.

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